Why treasured 3pm Saturday football is in danger as new live TV deals are struck
Slowly but surely the 3pm Saturday kick-off for professional football is being eroded.
The blame lies with the insatiable appetite for games to be screened live on TV – and a long-running rule that the Saturday 3pm slot is strictly off limits.
The Premier League has announced it will make around 270 matches available for live broadcast in the next domestic television cycle, in what is set to be football’s most lucrative rights sale in history. That is up by 70 on the current deal, and inevitably means more matches will be moved from a Saturday afternoon to accommodate the live cameras.
It isn't just the top flight that is affected. Sky Sports will take over from iFollow as the provider of live streamed football in the EFL from next season. Again, the 3pm slot remains out of bounds for all UK fans so, with more live games promised, it means a larger number of early or later kick-offs, Sunday and mid-week games.
The current cycle of coverage for the Premier League includes 200 matches across seven packages, but the league is looking to offer more games across just five packages in its next sale.
The Premier League is also breaking from tradition by looking to secure a four-year deal from 2025-26 and 2028-29, instead of the usual three-year deal.
The league’s Invitation To Tender (ITT), launched this week, confirmed the 3pm Saturday afternoon blackout will stay in place, but that every 2pm Sunday kick-off, including those displaced because of clubs being involved in European competition, will now be televised.
Five midweek rounds will be available in the package instead of the current four (including the Boxing Day round), while the Saturday 12.30pm and 5.30pm and the Sunday 2pm and 4.30pm stay in place, along with the 8pm Monday or Friday slot.
The ITT states that a minimum two broadcasters will be able to hold the live rights.